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  • Writer's pictureSharanya Naidoo

Power of West African drumming

Nov 17th 2017

I’ve never done African drumming before. On Saturday night my husband and I went to a workshop on West African Drumming with yoga and a cacao ceremony. It was DIVINE! I absolutely loved it. In this video I share how powerful it is to be part of such a sacred ceremony. The drums take you to another level.

What I wanted to share with you today is an experience I had on Saturday night which was something I dragged my husband along to and he ended up loving it. It was an African Drumming workshop, a cacao ceremony, which is cacao powder. It’s a chocolate… bitter, bitter chocolate drink, 100% cacao, with yoga. And it was just phenomenal. It was such a great evening. It was good to do something that’s so different from what we know.

I wanted to share with you something that the drumming teacher taught us. She had been to West Africa and learnt so many of their ways from the indigenous tribes. The drumming is such a community thing. It’s such a spiritual thing to be part of where each member of the circle …

(we all had our own drums which I didn’t realise. I thought we’d just be listening to some expert play the drum and then we’d listen to it and enjoy it. But no, we participated. Everyone had their own drums.)

… but each person in the circle is part of the whole. There’s no superstar. There’s no expert. We’re all in it together and it was a beautiful, beautiful community of song and spirituality. It was absolutely gorgeous.

And one thing that the teacher – actually many things – but one thing I would like to share is this calling that the drums would do. So there’d be the grandmother drum and the child drum, and they were almost the leaders of the circle and the rest of us would follow these two drummers. The grandma drum was this base, low kind of a sound, and the child drum was a higher pitched, beautiful sounding drum. And so the grandma one kind of kept the rhythm, kept the base, and the child drum was the one that would just bring in all the waves and the melodies and the beauty, the little nuances in the sound. So we were listening to the child drum and we were learning how lead and follow based on the calling of the child drum. The teacher was playing the child drum and there was this beautiful guy who was on the grandma drum.

And the teacher was sharing a little bit of the spirituality of the community that she learnt this beautiful, sacred music from. She explained the philosophy of the way they saw the world and she taught us certain syllables, words, that would help us kind of imbibe the energy of what we were doing. It wasn’t just banging and music. It was spiritual. It was community. It was unity with the outside world, with the universe, with the ancestors. It was a beautifully connecting, unifying experience.

She shared the word “sah”… “sah”. The English translation… the closest would be “love”, and “sah” means “all that is”, all that is. Everything is in the word “sah”. And she said when you open yourself up “sah” flows through you, and when you receive the energy receiving is “kah”, and then you give the energy which is “bah”. And so as we’re playing the drums we’re just receiving all this love, we’re opening up to all there is, we’re receiving a stream of it, and then we’re giving it out to each other and to the world.

There was this call that she would say. She would be singing “biniweh, biniweh” and we would chant back “pafumudeh, pafumudeh, pafumudeh”. And “pafumudeh”, the meaning of this word is so delicious, it’s so beautiful. It means fast, streaming water, like raging water, fast. Like it’s just cutting a path in its wake. And it’s forceful. It’s streaming. And you open your heart to it. So the cacao ceremony part was the heart opening, the fire, lighting a fire in our heart. And “pafumudeh” is this streaming water, this love that we receive. And the only way to keep the stream flowing she said is to give it, is to go out into the world and give it.

When we were chanting back to her ““pafumudeh, “pafumudeh”, it means that the water is streaming through us, through our whole body, our whole being, and honestly from our heart centre moving out into the world. It was so electric. It was so beautiful. I would encourage anyone who’s got the opportunity to experience this kind of a circle, to definitely go. It was magnetic. It was beautiful. It was magic.

It was so humbling and exciting to learn about another culture, a culture I didn’t know too much about. It was a West African ceremony type of drumming and singing. And it just shows the interconnectivity, if that’s a word, of all such philosophies that come from indigenous cultures, of the oneness of life, the stream of consciousness and consciousness is love and it encompasses all that is.

We as little human beings, individual human beings without ego identity, we have access to this spacious part of ourselves where we can truly feel that stream coming to us and through us, coming to us and then through us and we can choose to then be a vessel that then sheds it out into the world and opens our heart and gives and gives and gives.

It just gives me goose bumps. It makes me really emotional. It makes me feel so amazing when you’re filled with this love. And the beat of the drum is just so powerful and you’re in the middle of this circle and you’re all beating with this one rhythm. And I was dancing, I mean I don’t have much rhythm but I found rhythm that night and it was amazing, like I was just beating the drum. My husband is an amazing musician so he was just going nuts on it. He was brilliant at it. And I’m sitting there and I’m learning from him, watching him and watching the teacher.

Then there’s this moment that I just got swept in it and I had the rhythm and I had the beat and then my whole body just started dancing to the rhythm and I was just one with this music and this connection to “sah”, everything that is, this love that is – we have access to it. It’s right there. It’s everywhere. And we opened ourselves up to it, we received it. And then there was this conscious decision to yes, give it, give it freely, give it widely, give it deeply. Let it travel. Let it move the Earth. Let it move to all corners of the Earth. It was this beautiful acceptance of love.

When you feel full, when your cup runneth over, that’s what that feels like. You’re full and it’s just overflowing. It’s running over and over and there’s so much of it. And “pafumudeh”, that beautiful word of this streaming water coming through and the only way to keep that stream going is to give. If you shut it off, you gunk it up. You create a dam and then something is going to burst eventually. The heart will crack open whether it’s through pain and suffering or whether it’s through absolute burst of joy. It will crack open and you’ll have no choice but to just flood through and let rip, let it go to wherever it needs to go.

But if you consciously say yes, I receive it, “sah”, I receive all of this energy, this love, this consciousness, all that I have access to and I will move with it and I will give it in whatever way comes to me, in whatever way I can think of, then you’re really a vessel for love. You’re a vessel for the magnitude of what you’re connected to. You’re connected into that and you represent that. And in that field we are all equal. We all have access to it and we are all part of that one beating heart, whether we know it or not.

There was this moment where in the beginning we were just learning simple beats, and there was just this beat that came and we were doing it in a very technical way and then she just said okay now just listen to the beat, and she says this is the most primal beat there is, and it was the heartbeat. It was our heartbeat and it was really, really powerful. It was just this loud beating of the drums that matched the rhythm of our heartbeat. And it was like the heart of humanity, the heart of nature, of everything that exists, “sah”, of everything that is. It was that beat, that rhythm.

When you align yourself with the spaciousness in your inner world, the limitless, the part of your spirit that’s not contained in a body, it’s the spirit that has a body, that has a mind. You’re not identified as the body or the mind but you’re two feet in your spirit, your soul, you feel that water going through and you feel so much larger than your body. Your spirit is so much greater than your body.

The yoga that ended off the session was just really gentle and beautiful, and we had a yoga nidra at the end where you kind of meditate and just let the energy settle and kind of come back into yourself, and there were visions that I was having that were just so relevant to my life right now, and it was such a beautiful experience.

Pafumudeh”. That’s what I want to leave you with. This raging waters that can move through you, the love that you can accept and receive and then give. So I wish all of you “pafumudeh”. Allow the waters to flow without any kind of blockages. Just allow it to flow through you.



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